Networking is an sure-shot way to help your career. As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. As much as this might be said disparagingly, it is true. And – of course – you need to know something, but knowing things is not enough. You need to know people – and you need to be known, too.
It can be daunting to enter a room where you don’t know anyone. This fact has faced everyone – everyone – who is in that room. However, the pipeline industry is known for its inclusiveness and its interesting people. So just accept it, sweep into the room, and find a group of people, or a solo person, to talk to.
Here are some tips:
- Choose a loose group of two or three, especially if one of the three is looking around and not fully engaged. Don’t approach and push into a tight-knit group of people who are animatedly talking and leaning into each other (unless you know one of them well); this is a tough crowd to start with. Also be aware that the person standing solo might be standing solo for a reason – but that doesn’t mean don’t talk to them. If you’re new and don’t know many people, even the boring person might be better than standing alone yourself. Have something interesting in mind to talk about – a news headline, current project information, sports.
- Say your name clearly. Don’t assume that people know your name or can read your nametag. Even if you’ve met the person before, if they are a new acquaintance, do the courtesy of saying your name again. This is enormously helpful for that acquaintance if they’ve forgotten your name. And, of course, listen to their name and try try try to remember it – do word associations, repeat it back, whatever tricks you can find for remembering names. For some, this is the hardest part of networking.
- Listen more than you talk. . Get into the habit of asking the other person about something of interest to them. Everyone, to a point, likes to talk about themselves or what they are working on. Don’t dominate the conversation with only your stories.
- Pick up on what interests the person and file it away for future. Remember to ask the next time you meet, how their daughter’s recital went, or how their mother is feeling after being unwell, or if their project problem got solved to their satisfaction. Networking is about connecting with people, and connecting means finding a point of connection.
- “Hashtag” yourself. As hard as it may be, try to have a definitive description of what you do, or who you are, or what interests you most. When someone asks about you, don’t first launch into a long drawn out story, start with the hashtag, and if there is a point of connection, the conversation will carry on from there. If there isn’t a connection, ask them something.
- Smile and be positive. Don’t be the downer of the conversation, dwelling only on all the things going wrong. People would much rather engage with positive, fun people than someone who never says anything nice.
- Have diverse interests and experience. This makes you better at networking, because it means you can ask about – and talk about – things that are interesting. This makes you interesting to talk to.